No ‘compelling argument’ has so far been made that agriculture would be better off outside the EU, the president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union has said.
Ian Marshall made his comments following a meeting of the UFU Executive last night (Wednesday).
He has said both sides in the debate on the EU referendum need to set out, in detail, their vision of the future for agriculture in or out of the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy.
Mr Marshall, acknowledged there was significant interest in the UFU position, because the CAP was worth over £230 million a year to farmers here.
He added: “We want this to be an informed debate. For farmers future financial support is the central issue.”
Mr Marshall poined out that with the industry in crisis, the referendum was secondary for farming families and the UFU to getting through a deepening cash flow crisis across all enterprises.
“Tackling this is our current priority, but we will do all we can to encourage debate before the referendum – including bringing both sides together to make their case to farmers,” he said.
After a meeting of the Executive this week the UFU said that as things stood, from a farming perspective, there is a lack of clarity and no compelling case to leave the EU.
“The CAP is vital for farm incomes and no alternative support measures have been put forward by Brexit advocates. In addition the EU is our biggest export market, and we would need firm assurances about access to that market, should the UK vote to leave,” said Mr Marshall, stressing that the UFU would seek to separate the agricultural issues from the politics of the referendum debate.
“We recognise the many problems of the CAP and have real concerns about the bureaucracy that surrounds it. This has to change, and if the UK remains in the EU we would hope the government would be more vocal in pressing for that to happen,” said Mr Marshall.
“Because of the importance of CAP funding, and in the absence of a compelling case being made that farming would be financially better off outside the EU, our view for now is it will fare better in the EU,” he said, adding that this did not alter the UFU’s stance that it would not be telling members how they should vote.
“We do not become involved in mainstream politics. Voting has always been a private issue and it is right that it remains that way,” said Mr Marshall.